Scaling and Performance

Network Scaling

The scaling and performance characteristics of a Canton based system are determined by many factors. The simplest approach is when Canton is deployed as a simple monolith where vertical scaling would add more CPUs, memory, etc. to the compute resource. However, it is expected the most frequent deployment of Canton is as a distributed, micro-service architecture, running in different data centers of different organizations, with many opportunities to incrementally increase throughput. This is outlined below.

The ledger state in Canton does not exist globally so there is no single node that, by design, hosts all contracts. Instead, participant nodes are involved in transactions that operate on the ledger state on a strict need to know basis (data minimization), only exchanging (encrypted) information on the domains used as coordination points for the given input contracts. For example, if participants Alice and Bank transact on an i-owe-you contract on domain A, another participant Bob or another domain B will not even receive a single bit related to this transaction. This is in contrast to blockchains, where each node has to process each block regardless of how active or directly affected they are by a certain transaction. This lends itself to a micro-service approach that can scale horizontally.

The micro-services deployment of Canton includes the set of participant and domain nodes (hereafter, “participant” or “participants” and “domain” or “domains” respectively), as well as the services internal to the domain (e.g., Topology Manager). In general, each Canton micro-service follows the best practice of having its own local database which increases throughput. Deploying a service to its own compute server increases throughput because of the additional CPU and disk capacity. In fact, a vertical scaling approach can be used to increase throughput if a single service becomes a bottleneck, along with the option of horizontal scaling that is discussed next.

An initial Canton deployment can increase its scaling in multiple ways that build on each other. If a single participant node has many parties, then throughput can be increased by migrating parties off to a new, additional participant node (currently supported as a manual early access feature). For example, if there are 100 parties performing multi-lateral transactions with each other, then the system can reallocate parties to 10 participants with 10 parties each, or say 100 participants with 1 party each. As most of the computation occurs on the participants, a domain can sustain a very substantial load from multiple participants. If the domain were to be a bottleneck then the Sequencer(s), Topology Manager, and Mediator can be run on their own compute server which increases the domain throughput. Therefore, new compute servers with additional Canton nodes can be added to the network when needed, allowing the entire system to scale horizontally.

If even more throughput is needed then the multiple domain feature of Canton can be leveraged to increase throughput. In a large and active network where a domain reaches the capacity limit, additional domains can be rolled out, such that the workflows can be sharded over the available domains (early access). This is a standard technique for load balancing where the client application does the load balancing via sharding.

If a single party is a bottleneck then the throughput can be increased by sharding the workflow across multiple parties hosted on separate participants. If a workflow is involving some large operator (i.e. an exchange), then an option would be to shard the operator by creating two operator parties and distribute the workflows evenly over the two operators (eventually hosted on different participants), and by adding some intermediate steps for the few cases where the workflows would span across the two shards.

There are some anti-patterns that need to be avoided for the maximum scaling opportunity. For example, having almost all of the parties on a single participant is an anti-pattern to be avoided since that participant will be a bottleneck. Similarly, the design of the Daml model has a strong impact on the degree to which sharding is possible. For example, having a Daml application that introduces a synchronization party through which all transactions need to be validated introduces a bottleneck so it is also an anti-pattern to avoid.

The bottom-line is that a Canton system can scale out horizontally if commands involve only a small number of participants and domains.


This feature is only available in Canton Enterprise

Node Scaling

The Daml Enterprise edition of Canton supports the following scaling of nodes:

  • The database backed drivers (Postgres and Oracle) can run in an active-active setup with parallel processing, supporting multiple writer and reader processes. Thus, such nodes can scale horizontally.
  • The enterprise participant node processes transactions in parallel (except the process of conflict detection which by definition must be sequential), allowing much higher throughput than the community version. The community version is processing each transaction sequentially. Canton processes make use of multiple cpus and will detect the number of available cpus automatically. The number of parallel threads can be controlled by setting the JVM properties scala.concurrent.context.numThreads to the desired value.

Generally, the performance of Canton nodes is currently storage I/O bound. Therefore, their performance depends on the scaling behaviour and throughput performance of the underlying storage layer, which can be a database, or a distributed ledger for some drivers. Therefore, appropriately sizing the database is key to achieve the necessary performance.

On a related note: the Daml interpretation is a pure operation, without side-effects. Therefore, the interpretation of each transaction can run in parallel, and only the conflict-detection between transactions must run sequentially.

Performance and Sizing

A Daml workflow can be computationally arbitrarily complex, performing lots of computation (cpu!) or fetching many contracts (io!), and involve different numbers of parties, participants and domains. Canton nodes store their entire data in the storage layer (database), with additional indexes. Every workflow and topology is different, and therefore, sizing requirements depend on the Daml application that is going to run, and on the resource requirements of the storage layer. Therefore, in order to obtain sizing estimates, you must measure the resource usage of dominant workflows using a representative topology and setup of your use-case.


As every transaction comes with an overhead (signatures, symmetric encryption keys, serialization and wrapping into messages for transport, http headers etc), we recommend to design the applications submitting commands in a way that batches smaller requests together into a single transaction.

Optimal batch sizes depend on the workflow and the topology, and need to be determined experimentally.

Storage Estimation

A priori storage estimation of a Canton installation is tricky. Generally, we can give the following reasoning around the storage used. As explained above, storage usage depends highly on topology, payload, Daml models used and what type of storage layer is configured. However, the following example might be used to understand the storage usage for your use case.

First, a command submitted through the Ledger Api is sent to the participant as a serialized gRPC request.

This command is first interpreted and translated into a Daml-LF transaction. The interpreted transaction is next translated into a Canton transaction view-decomposition, which is a privacy-preserving representation of the full transaction tree structure. A transaction typically consists of several transaction views; in the worst case every action node in the transaction tree becomes a separate transaction view. Each view contains the full set of arguments required by that view, including the contract arguments of the input contracts. So the data representation can be multiplied quite a bit. Here, we cannot estimate the resulting size without having a concrete example. For simplicity, let us consider the simple case where a participant is exercising a simple “Transfer” choice on an typical “Iou” contract to a new owner, preserving the other contract arguments. We assume that the old and new owner of the Iou are hosted on the same participant whereas the Iou issuer is hosted on a second participant.

In this case, the resulting Canton transaction consists of two views (one for the Exercise node of the Transfer choice and one for the Create node of the transferred Iou). Both views contain some metadata such as the package and template identifiers, contract keys, stakeholders, and involved participants. The view for the Exercise node contains the contract arguments of the input Iou, say of size Y. The view for the Create node contains the updated contract arguments for the created contract, again of size Y. Note that there is no fixed relation between the command size X and the size of the input contracts Y. Typically X only contains the receiver of the transfer, but not the contract arguments that are stored on the ledger.

Then, we observe the following storage usage:

  • Two encrypted envelopes with payload Y each, one symmetric key per view and informee participant of that view, two root hashes for each participant and the participant ids as recipients at the sequencer store, and the informee tree for the mediator (informees and transaction metadata, but no payload), together with the sequencer database indexes.
  • Two encrypted envelopes with payload Y each and the symmetric keys for the views, in the participant events table of each participant (as both receive the data)
  • Decrypted new resulting contract of size Y in the private contract store and some status information of that contract on the active contract journal of the sync service.
  • The full decrypted transaction with payload of size Y for the created contract, in the sync service linear event log. This transaction does not contain the input contract arguments.
  • The full decrypted transaction with Y in the indexer events table, excluding input contracts, but including newly divulged input contracts.

If we assume that payloads dominate the storage requirements, we conclude that the storage requirement is given by the payload multiplication due to the view decomposition. In our example, the transaction requires 5*Y storage on each participant and 2*Y on the sequencer. For the two participants and the sequencer, this makes 12*Y in total.

Additionally to this, some indexes have to be built by the database in order to serve the contracts and events efficiently. The exact estimation of the size usage of such indexes for each database layer is beyond the scope of our documentation.


Please note that we do have plans to remove the storage duplication between the sync service and the indexer. Ideally, will be able to reduce the storage on the participant for this example from 5*Y down to 3*Y: once for the unencrypted created contract and twice for the two encrypted transaction views.

Generally, in order to recover used storage, a participant and a domain can be pruned. Pruning is available on Canton Enterprise through a set of console commands and allows to remove past events and archived contracts based on a timestamp. This way, the storage usage of a Canton deployment can be kept constant by continuously removing obsolete data. Non-repudiation and auditability of the unpruned history is preserved due to the bilateral commitments.

How to Setup Canton to Get Best Performance?

In this section, the findings from our internal performance tests are outlined to help you achieve best performance for your Canton application.

System Design / Architecture

We recommend the version of Canton included in the Daml Enterprise edition, which is heavily optimized when compared with the community edition.

Plan your topology such that your Daml parties can be partitioned into independent blocks. That means, most of your Daml commands involve parties of a single block only. It is ok if some commands involve parties of several (or all) blocks, as long as this happens only very rarely. In particular, avoid having a single master party that is involved in every command, because that party would become a bottleneck of the system.

If your participants are becoming a bottleneck, add more participant nodes to your system. Make sure that each block runs on its own participant. If your domain(s) are becoming a bottleneck, add more domain nodes and distribute the load evenly over all domains.

Prefer sending big commands with multiple actions (creates / exercise) over sending numerous small commands. Avoid sending unnecessary commands through the ledger API. Try to minimize the payload of commands.

Further information can be found in Section Scaling and Performance.

Hardware and Database

Do not run Canton nodes with an in-memory storage or with an H2 storage in production or during performance tests. You may observe very good performance in the beginning, but performance can degrade substantially once the data stores fill up.

Measure memory usage, CPU usage and disk throughput and improve your hardware as needed. For simplicity, it makes sense to start on a single machine. Once the resources of a machine are becoming a bottleneck, distribute your nodes and databases to different machines.

Try to make sure that the latency between a Canton node and its database is very low (ideally in the order of microseconds). Prefer hosting a Canton node and its database on the same machine. This is likely faster than running several Canton nodes on the same machine and the databases on a separate machine; for, the latency between Canton nodes is much less performance critical than the latency between a Canton node and its database.

Optimize the configuration of your database, and make sure the database has sufficient memory and is stored on SSD disks with a very high throughput. For Postgres, this online tool is a good starting point for finding reasonable parameters.


In the following, we go through the parameters with known impact on performance.

Timeouts. Under high load, you may observe that commands timeout. This will negatively impact throughput, because the commands consume resources without contributing to the number of accepted commands. To avoid this situation increase timeout parameters from the Canton console:

    participantResponseTimeout = 60.seconds,
    mediatorReactionTimeout = 60.seconds

If timeouts keep occurring, change your setup to submit commands at a lower rate. In addition, take the next paragraph on resource limits into account.

Tune resource limits. Resource limits are used to prevent ledger applications from overloading Canton by sending commands at an excessive rate. While resource limits are necessary to protect the system from denial of service attacks in a production environment, they can prevent Canton from achieving maximum throughput. Resource limits can be configured as follows from the Canton console:

    // Allow for submitting at most 200 commands per second
    maxRate = Some(200),

    // Limit the number of in-flight requests to 500.
    // A "request" includes every transaction that needs to be validated by participant1:
    // - transactions originating from commands submitted to participant1
    // - transaction originating from commands submitted to different participants.
    // The chosen configuration allows for processing up to 100 requests per second
    // with an average latency of 5 seconds.
    maxDirtyRequests = Some(500),

    // Allow submission bursts of up to `factor * maxRate`
    maxBurstFactor = 0.5,

As a rule of thumb, configure maxDirtyRequests to be slightly larger than throughput * latency, where

  • throughput is the number of requests per second Canton needs to handle and
  • latency is the time taken to process a single request while Canton is receiving requests at rate throughput.

You should run performance tests to ensure that throughput and latency are actually realistic. Otherwise, an application may overload Canton by submitting more requests than Canton can handle.

Configure the maxRate parameter to be slightly higher than the expected maximal throughput.

If you need to support command bursts, configure the maxBurstFactor accordingly. Then, the maxRate limitation will only start to enforce the rate after having received the initial burst of maxBurstFactor * maxRate.

To find optimal resource limits you need to run performance tests. The maxDirtyRequest parameter will protect Canton from being overloaded, if requests are arriving at a constant rate. The maxRate parameter offers additional protection, if requests are arriving at a variable rate.

If you choose higher resource limits, you may observe a higher throughput, at the risk of a higher latency. In the extreme case however, latency grows so much that commands will timeout; as a result, the command processing consumes resources even though some commands are not committed to the ledger.

If you choose lower resource limits, you may observe a lower latency, at the cost of lower throughput and commands getting rejected with the error code PARTICIPANT_BACKPRESSURE.

Size of connection pools. Make sure that every node uses a connection pool to communicate with the database. This avoids the extra cost of creating a new connection on every database query. Canton chooses a suitable connection pool by default. Configure the maximum number of connections such that the database is fully loaded, but not overloaded. Try to observe the db-storage.queue metrics. If they are large, then the system performance may benefit from tuning the number of database connections. Detailed instructions can be found in the Section Max Connection Settings.

Size of database task queue. If you are seeing frequent RejectedExecutionExceptions when Canton queries the database, increase the size of the task queue, as described in Section Database task queue full. The rejection is otherwise harmless. It just points out that the database is overloaded.

Database Latency. Ensure that the database latency is low. The higher the database latency, the lower the actual bandwidth and the lower the throughput of the system.

Turn on High-Throughput Sequencer. The database sequencer has a number of parameters that can be tuned. The trade-off is low-latency or high-throughput. In the low-latency setting, every submission will be immediately processed as a single item. In the high-throughput setting, the sequencer will accumulate a few events before writing them together at once. While the latency added is only a few ms, it does make a difference during development and testing of your Daml applications. Therefore, the default setting is low-latency. A production deployment with high throughput demand should choose the high-throughput setting by configuring:

// example setting for domain nodes. database sequencer nodes have the exact same settings. {
    type = database
    writer = {
        // choose between high-throughput or low-latency
        type = high-throughput

There are additional parameters that can in theory be fine-tuned, but we recommend to leave the defaults and use either high-throughput or low-latency. In our experience, a high-throughput sequencer can handle several thousand submissions per second.

JVM heap size. In case you observe OutOfMemoryErrors or high overhead of garbage collection, you must increase the heap size of the JVM, as described in Section Java Virtual Machine Arguments. Use tools of your JVM provider (such as VisualVM) to monitor the garbage collector to check whether the heap size is tight.

Size of thread pools. Every Canton process has a thread pool for executing internal tasks. By default, the size of the thread-pool is configured as the number of (virtual) cores of the underlying (physical) machine. If the underlying machine runs other processes (e.g., a database) or if Canton runs inside of a container, the thread-pool may be too big, resulting in excessive context switching. To avoid that, configure the size of the thread pool explicitly like this:

"bin/canton -Dscala.concurrent.context.numThreads=12 --config examples/01-simple-topology/simple-topology.conf"

As a result, Canton will log the following line:

"INFO  c.d.c.e.EnterpriseEnvironment - Deriving 12 as number of threads from '-Dscala.concurrent.context.numThreads'."

Asynchronous commits. If you are using a Postgres database, configure the participant’s ledger api server to commit database transactions asynchronously by including the following line into your Canton configuration:

canton.participants.participant1.ledger-api.postgres-data-source.synchronous-commit = off

Logging Settings. Make sure that Canton outputs log messages only at level INFO and above and turn off immediate log flushing using the --log-immediate-flush=false commandline flag, at the risk of missing log entries during a host system crash.

Replication. If (and only if) using single nodes for participant, sequencer and/or mediator, replication can be turned off by setting replication.enabled = false in their respective configuration.


While replication can be turned off to try to obtain performance gains, it must not be disabled when running multiple nodes for HA.